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G.J. Vitale | Who’s on First

Joe Schmoe’s Got Game

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 13:02

After an 11−year run in the NBA −− including five years with the Boston Celtics −− everybody’s favorite anomaly, Brian Scalabrine, hung up his shorts at the end of last season.

Nicknamed “White Mamba,” more as a joke than anything, Scalabrine led a career of consistency −− insipid consistency, but consistency nonetheless.

Why, then, do so many people recognize the man who averaged just 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per game?

Apparently that’s a pretty popular question. One of the most asked questions on Google search involving the redheaded, retired forward is “why is Brian Scalabrine so popular?”

In short, for no reason whatsoever. Sarcastic as that answer may seem, you can’t help but relate to a guy like Brian Scalabrine. That’s what made him so enjoyable to root for. He was like the Seabiscuit of basketball.

Yes, he’s kind of tall, but that’s nothing special for an NBA forward. Yes, he’s slightly above average from behind the arc, but as a power forward that’s probably more like a defense mechanism to avoid playing down low than an advantage.

Honestly, nothing on the surface says that Scalabrine should have ever played in the NBA.

This same phenomenon materializes in Major League Baseball in the form of St. Louis Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman.

If Berkman wasn’t wearing a baseball uniform and constantly spamming the opposite gaps (plural because he’s a switch hitter), any sane person would assume he works at Lowe’s as the paint−mixer guy.

Frankly, both these “professional athletes” look pretty out of shape and make seemingly easy targets for those who like to complain about overpriced, lazy, undeserving athletes.

A couple of weeks ago, some of these haters got a very real chance to prove their point against the “White Mamba,” Brian Scalabrine.

In what was named the “Scallenge,” a local radio show in the Boston area sponsored a 1−on−1 tournament with Scalabrine playing individual games to 11 against four challengers.

All the challengers were amateur players from the area. Talent level? Let’s just say the weekend basketballer would get destroyed by any one of these challengers.

Results? “White Mamba” 4: haters 0. He was victorious in convincing fashion, even managing two shutouts.

Now, unlike the Berkman, Scalabrine was not very good compared to most players in the NBA.

Let’s face it; he probably extended his career as long as he did because he played the role of “benchwarmer” so well. Talent is not the story here as much as the attitude is.

Illustrating this was the NBA’s attempt at a highlights compilation celebrating the forward’s best moments on the court. It was reduced to a few quasi−routine plays mixed in with some timely threes. Always known throughout his professional career as a solid teammate, it was more likely what “White Mamba” did off the court that warranted an 11−year stay in the league.

At the end of the day, we like to watch guys like Scalabrine and Berkman be successful, especially Scalabrine. He’s certainly no superstar or even a starter. He was the underdog who stole the hearts of fans, because at the end of the day it’s athletes like Brian Scalabrine and Lance Berkman who allow fans to relate to the sports they watch.

No one can relate to guys like LeBron James and Mike Trout: they are otherworldly. Scalabrine and Berkman look like dudes you picked up off the street and gave a basketball and baseball respectively, put them out in the game, and said, “Go get ‘em, man.”

With that attitude then, it’s no surprise that these fans/haters thought they could take on “White Mamba.” Unfortunately for them, they forgot how hard it is to stay in the NBA for 11 years.

Players traditionally regarded as “better” were in the league for shorter stints than Scalabrine. They don’t just keep guys in the NBA. Roster space is always a novelty owners are itching to have. Frankly, I find it hilarious that these challengers thought they had a chance.

Even after retirement, the “White Mamba” can still strike.

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